Our Planning Live session last Thursday looked at Local Place Plans and it was great to have the chance to discuss matters with Johanna Boyd, chief executive of PAS and planner and mediator, Nick Wright.

What is a Local Place Plan?

Local Place Plans (LPPs) were introduced as part of the 2019 planning reform. They are community-led and (according to Scottish Government) provide an opportunity for community groups or community councils to engage in the planning system and influence future development in their area.

Before preparing an LDP, planning authorities must issue an invitation to local communities in their district to prepare a LPP. While a LPP can be prepared at any time, a target submission date is usually given to dovetail with the LDP process.

When a community group is preparing a LPP it must have regard to the development plan and any locality plan. LPPs are not part of the development plan but should be taken into account in planning decisions as a material consideration. When a LPP is submitted to the planning authority for its area and accepted as valid, it must be registered on the Local Place Plan Register.

Do communities want LPPs?

Some certainly do. As we learned from Johanna and Nick, there is a lot of great work underway by communities and those who support them. The Callander LPP has now been registered and many more are being prepared or have been submitted to the relevant planning authority for review. While much of the activity is taking place in rural communities, LPPs are just as relevant to urban locations, as can be seen from the work being done in Kinning Park, Glasgow and Wester Hailes, Edinburgh.

But LPPs are not necessarily for every community. That may be a matter of choice. But it may also be due to funding and time constraints, or a lack of knowledge, confidence or support. In these early days of LPPs, it will be important to document and learn from experiences, and the Scottish Ministers are obliged to review the impact and effectiveness of LPPs in a few years' time.

Wider community engagement to build consensus in the initial exploratory and plan-making stages is essential. While there are formal requirements to notify local councillors and community councils before a LPP is submitted to the planning authority, consultation is likely to have taken place over many months before it gets to that stage.

Who is funding LPPs?

While access to funding is patchy, the funding which is available comes from a wide variety of sources, including some (not all) local authorities (for e.g., the Highland Council Place Based Investment fund), charities, substantial landowners and renewable energy community benefit schemes. In some instances, community groups have been asked by a funder to produce a LPP to help document and shape plans and proposals which are already being pursued, strengthening their legitimacy.

What do LPPs look like?

The Planning Act sets out a few basic requirements for LPP content, such as a plan showing the area to which it relates and a statement of the community body's proposals for the development or use of land in the area. But every LPP will be different. There is no one size fits all, nor should there be. LPPs will vary in length, look, content and cost. While some may be glossy submissions with professional photography, that won't be an option for many groups and isn't necessary to achieve a robust plan with community buy-in.

While LPPs must have a spatial element, many participating community groups appear just as interested in non-spatial proposals and plans. The Wester Hailes LPP, for example, contains 19 spatial projects and 17 non-spatial projects with the latter including a food strategy, a health and well-being strategy, and capacity building of Wester Hailes Community Trust. This illustrates the community planning background from which LPPs have emerged and is a useful reminder that we shouldn’t view their benefits too narrowly.

As with all plans and strategies though, producing the document is only the beginning of the story. Plan delivery will be an ongoing challenge.